Sixty-two years ago today on February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens, died tragically in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa while on their Winter Dance Party Tour.
Buddy Holly was 22-years-old, The Big Bopper 28-years-old, and Ritchie Valens only 17-years-old.
“When the plane crashed and people call it the day the music died, of course the music didn’t really die. The Beatles came and rock-n-roll exploded again but symbolically that time and place will never happen again and the innocence where Ritchie, Buddy, and J.P. are forever frozen in the 50’s,” said co-producer of the docuseries “The Winter Dance Party Tapes” Sevan Garabedian.
Garabedian has been learning about the history of that tragic day for most of his adult life and has been able to travel to each city on the Winter Dance Tour.
It was a Midwest tour and there were several stops in Wisconsin.
“Ideally, if the ballrooms were still around we did the interviews in the actual ballrooms. So, for example in Green Bay the Riverside Ballroom is still there and still active, so we filmed in there. In Milwaukee, where the tour started, the beautiful Eagles Club is still there with the Eagles Ballroom on the 2nd floor and we did the interviews there. It’s wonderful, it’s really like going back in time when you hear these fans what that night meant to them. It’s like going back down memory lane for them and a sweet moment in their lives because life changed after that as the 60’s came about,” Garabedian said.
The Eagle’s Ballroom in Milwaukee was the first stop on the tour.
“It’s probably the only time where things went perfectly, you know, because as soon as they got on the bus and started traveling, things started to go wrong. This was the one time where it was joyful and things were going to go great.”
Through the years, Garabedian has interviewed fans who attended the concerts divulging once in a lifetime experiences where they were able to mingle with the big artists on a more intimate level than we see today.
After the tour’s show in Clear Lake, Iowa, the plane carrying Holly, Richardson, Valens crashed 5 minutes after take off.
So today, we remember the first major Rock-n-Roll tragedy and three rising stars forever immortalized by their music, youth, and innocence .
If you were at the show of the Winter Dance Party tour at the Eagles Club on January 23, 1959, Garabedian would like to hear your stories.
You can e-mail Garabedian at [email protected] or call 514-931-6959. There is also a reward for photos taken that night as well.
Garabedian says a total of 20 episodes will be released in the docuseries “The Winter Dance Party Tapes” on YouTube throughout 2021.
Hear more by clicking on the player above.